New Zealand nurses lost in Marquette sinking

23 October 1915

Tram carrying a propaganda message about the Marquette sinking (ATL, 1/1-007697-G)

The sinking of the transport ship Marquette in the Aegean Sea in late 1915 added to the grief of a nation still reeling from the heavy losses at Gallipoli. Among the 167 fatalities were 32 New Zealanders, including 10 members of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service.

They need not have died. As a grey-painted troop transport, the Marquette was fair game for the German submarine that torpedoed it. A marked hospital ship, theoretically safe from attack, had left the same port on the same day as the Marquette, completely empty.

By putting the medical staff in an unmarked transport in a convoy carrying troops and ammunition, the authorities unnecessarily risked their lives. The New Zealand government acknowledged as much in November 1915 when the governor, Lord Liverpool, told the British War Office that New Zealand wanted future transfers of medical units to be made by hospital ship where possible.

The sinking sparked public outrage. The death of the nurses was felt particularly badly in the South Island, where most of them had lived or nursed. 

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Ted Egan AO

Posted: 25 Jun 2015

I am anxious to obtain photographs of the 10 nurses drowned on the Marquette. I am of course willing to pay any fees involved and to give due accreditation to the source of the photos